The issue of worker shortages at restaurants has come up again as nine Burger King employees quit en masse over working conditions in Lincoln, Nebraska. The workers’ actions went viral after they put up on the restaurant’s sign “We all quit,” later explaining to local news that they were working 50 to 60 hours a week and had no air conditioning in the kitchen.
Concern about workplace shortages is also happening in Iowa. The Iowa Restaurant Association has reported half of the state’s restaurants are operating about 20 percent below needed staffing levels and 92 percent are looking for staff.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Monday it isn’t the state’s role to get involved with issues such as wages. Instead, she said it should be “market-driven,” echoing what Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said about employers choosing to raise wages or provide benefits as they see fit.
“We want to help Iowans retrain, reskill, match them up with the opportunities that exist across the state,” Reynolds said. “So that’s the role that government should be playing. Not supplementing or being in competition with the federal government to keep people home.”
Reynolds, Ricketts and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem were in South Sioux City, Nebraska, Monday for the 17th Tri-State Governors’ Conference hosted by the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce.
However, Dave Swenson, an economist at Iowa State University, told the Gazette that the shortage doesn’t have one explanation, and it’s wrong to put all of the blame on unemployment benefits.
He said it will take time to fully understand the issue of workplace shortages.
In the meantime, the Iowa Restaurant Association reports more than half of Iowa restaurants and bars have started offering new incentives and benefits for employees such as free meals, more flexible schedules, and paid sick and vacation time.
It also reports dropping some services, stretching staff and closing for an extra day a week.
At the Lincoln Burger King, staff members said conditions like the broken air conditioning in the kitchen, where temperatures reached the 90s, were the main reason they left. The general manager reported having to get fluids at the hospital for dehydration.
The employees gave their two weeks’ notice at the same time and closed out their final day by changing the sign outside the restaurant to say, “We all quit. Sorry for the inconvenience.”
It now says, “Now hiring. Flexible schedules.”
by Nikoel Hytrek